Long-suffering California GOP sees revival in rare House win

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In this Jan. 28, 2020, file photo, former Navy combat pilot Mike Garcia greets supporters in Simi Valley, Calif. Long-suffering California Republicans see hope for November after Garcia's special election victory in the 25th District. (AP Photo/Michael Blood, File)

LOS ANGELES – California Republicans have been waiting for a turning point and some think it's finally arrived.

The party of Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan has been fading in California for years: Democrats control every statewide office, dominate the Legislature and hold all but eight of the state’s 53 U.S. House seats. The GOP’s deficit in voter registrations: a staggering 4.4 million.

But the victory last week of a President Donald Trump-supporting former Navy pilot in a contested U.S. House race north of Los Angeles has emboldened Republicans.

“Do I think we’ve turned a corner? Absolutely,” said Jessica Millan Patterson, who heads the state party.

The GOP hit a humiliating low in 2018 when Democrats picked up seven Republican House seats in the state, even driving Republicans out of the one-time conservative fortress of Orange County. The rout helped Democrats retake the House.

The same year, the number of registered independent voters eclipsed Republicans in the state, reducing the GOP to third-place status.

After the losses, Republican National Committee member Shawn Steel said the state party had “reached the point of desperation” and was “completely outmatched” by state Democrats.

But the 10-point win by newcomer Mike Garcia over Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the 25th District — the kind of suburban swing district both parties covet — gave the GOP a rare moment of celebration, though it’s significance for November is open to debate.